The day commemorates the 1956 march of approximately 20,000 women to the Union Buildings in Pretoria to petition against the country’s pass laws that required South Africans defined as “black” under The Population Registration Act to carry an internal passport, known as a pass, that served to maintain population segregation, control urbanisation, and manage migrant labour during the apartheid era. The women successfully gathered petitions with 100,000 signatures and left them at the Prime Minister’s office. They also stood in silence for 30 minutes and concluded by singing a protest song that inspired today’s slogan: “You strike a woman, you strike a rock.”
In the first few years that South Africa was ruled by a democratically elected government, enormous strides were made in getting institutions and policies in place that promoted women’s rights and protected their interests. But after 25 years many of those gains have been rolled back. The women of today still know the fight is not yet over. Because of this, National Women’s Day serves the purpose of drawing attention to the issues South African women are still fighting, such as domestic violence, sexual harassment in the workplace, parenting issues, education for girls, and unequal pay.
National Women’s Day will forever be a reminder of the strong women who fought for the rights of women today.
5 Interesting Facts About Female Advancements In South Africa:
1. White women receive a new right
White women received the right to vote in 1930
2. Women of color can vote
More than five decades after white women received the right to vote, women of color received this right in 1983
3. The first female is elected into Parliament
Leila Wright becomes the first female to join Parliament in 1933
4. The first female is elected into the ANC
Lilian Masedeiba Matabane Ngoyi was the first female elected to serve on the execute committee for the African National Congress (ANC)—she also helped launch the Federation of South African Women
5. Women of all races join the military
The South African National Defense Force included women of all races beginning in 1995 and appointed Brigadier Jackie Sedibe—the first woman to be promoted to the rank of major general—to ensure women were being treated fairly